Two days after appointing an American as its new spokesman, the Vatican has named an American laywoman as a member of the Secretariat for Communications, a body created by Pope Francis last year to manage and overhaul Rome’s different news and media outlets.
Kim Daniels is a former spokesperson for the president of the US bishops’ conference, where she served both Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Archbishop Joseph Kurtz.
She’s also a founder and former director of Catholic Voices USA. She is currently a communications consultant for organizations such as Catholic Relief Services, the Archdiocese of Washington, the Catholic Climate Covenant, and Women Speak for Themselves.
Members of Vatican departments attend at least yearly meetings in Rome, acting as external advisers or consultants by providing input into initiatives and proposals.
Two other laypeople have been named as members of the Secretariat: Markus Schächter is a German media ethics professor and journalist in Munich, while Leticia Soberón Mainero is a part-Spanish, part-Mexican communications expert who was a consultor to the now-defunct Pontifical Council for Social Communications.
A number of bishops and cardinals have also been named as Secretariat members, including Irish Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, who in the 1990s represented the Holy See to the United Nations before being moved by St John Paul II to Dublin to tackle the Irish clerical sex abuse crisis.
Other bishop members include two of Francis’ surprise picks last year as cardinals: Myanmar Archbishop Charles Muang Bo and Bishop Chibly Langlois of Les Cayes, Haiti. Also on the list are bishops and archbishops from Lebanon, Kenya, Portugal, Lithuania and Spain.
In that mix, Daniels — a mother of six children who lives in Washington, D.C. — stands out as a veteran communications professional who has worked closely with the U.S. bishops and who has their trust.
She was a lead member of the church team responsible for the U.S. launch of Pope Francis’ environmental encyclical Laudato Si, and as director of Catholic Voices USA, she commented widely on the conclave that elected Pope Francis in March 2013.
A graduate of Princeton and the University of Chicago Law School, she is currently a lay adviser to the US bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty.
US bishops’ president Archbishop Joseph Kurtz told Crux: “Kim brings both an insightful approach to communications and a knowledgeable love of the Church.”
“Especially as the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communications looks to help the universal Church reach out to young people with the hope of the Gospel, Kim will be a strong contributor,” Kurtz said.
I got to know Kim when she was Catholic Voices director in 2012-2013, when she helped develop training sessions and messaging strategies on issues such as religious liberty, immigration reform, and life questions. She appeared on CNN, Fox, PBS, and the BBC, while also writing articles for major publications.
Savvy and strategic, with a great love for the Church, she combines a lawyer’s rigor with a natural penchant for communications.
Daniels told Crux she was “honored and excited” by the appointment, which she said comes at a key moment in the development of Church communications.
“Pope Francis is showing us how best to convey the Gospel: by bringing the love at the heart of our faith close to people in the concrete particularity of their lives,” she said.
“The hallmarks of his approach — mercy, dialogue, personal encounter — are essential to effectively bringing our faith to others,” Daniels said, “and I’m looking forward to helping advance that mission.”